§ 135. Mrs. Corbet
asked the Minister of Works if he and the London County Council are agreed on the terms and conditions on which Festival Gardens, Limited, will occupy a part of Battersea Park during the next few years.
§ 1952. Mr. Eccles
The Leader of the London County Council and I have agreed on certain points of general policy to be followed in the future operation of the Festival Pleasure Gardens. The detailed terms and conditions on which Festival Gardens, Limited, will continue to occupy a part of Battersea Park will be incorporated in an occupation agreement now124W being negotiated between the London County Council and the Company.
The following are the letters:
25th January. 1952
DEAR MR. HAYWARD,
In the lebate on the Second Reading of the Festival, Pleasure Gardens Bill I described the Bill [...] the framework within which Festival Gardens, Limited, can operate the Festival Pleasure Gardens in the coming years. This framework is to be filled in by the steps which have now been taken to reconstitute the Board of the Company, and by an agreement concluded between the Company and the London County Council defining the terms and conditions on which the Company will henceforth occupy a part of Battersea Park. Thereafter responsibility for the operation of the Gardens rests with the Board of Festival Gardens, Limited. It is my wish that the Board should be able, as in the past, to conduct its affairs without detailed supervision from Parliament, the London County Council or the Government. There are, however, certain important points affecting the future operation of the Gardens which are not covered by any formal agreement, but which should, I think, be agreed in writing between us as the basis of our joint decision to carry on the Gardens, so that the policy of the Board can be guided accordingly.
As I see it our first objective is to recover so far as practicable the outstanding loan to Festival Gardens, Limited, of £1,162,000, of which £200,000 is owed to the London County Council and the remainder to the Government. Until that loan is recovered the Company should feel obliged to avoid large and speculative expenditure and to maintain admittance charges at their present levels unless it appears clear to the Board that some reduction in these charges would lead to an improved revenue.
The second objective is to meet the public demand for the continuance of the Gardens and to provide those amenities and entertainments which the public desire. This objective is clearly complementary to the first, for the provision of such amenities is the best way of recovering the outstanding loan, provided of course that it does not lead to extravagant or wasteful expenditure. The Company will have to apply to my Ministry in the ordinary way for licences for any works, whether on the erection of new structures or the maintenance of existing structures, for which these licences are required. The passage of legislation to continue the Gardens must, as I said in my Second Reading speech, be regarded as constituting Parliamentary approval for the minimum essential work to give effect to this decision, but I have asked the Chairman of the Company to ensure that for the next two years capital expenditure is kept strictly within the limits indicated in the Board's estimates on which the Government have decided to authorise the Gardens to be carried on.
The two objectives of recovering the outstanding loan and meeting the public demand for amenities such as those provided in the Festival Pleasure Gardens must to some extent 125W be tempered by a third and equally important objective—the maintenance of the high standards which have been set by the Pleasure Gardens from their opening. In some respects, for example, in the flower gardens, I hope that even higher standards can be reached now that more time is available for preparation. I know you share my wish that standards should be maintained at a high level and that neither the repayment of loans nor demands from any quarter could justify a departure from good taste; I am convinced that the Company can do this while keeping within its budget.
There are two other points on which I think you would like to have a written assurance from me. The first of these points, which was raised in the debate on the Second Reading of the Festival Pleasure Gardens Bill, is the possibility that the London County Council and Festival Gardens Limited might fail to reach agreement on the terms of the new occupation agreement. If that happens, as you know, the Bill now before Parliament will give the Company the right to continue their operations in Battersea Park. I explained during the Second Reading debate that it is impossible for either the Government or the London County Council to have a complete veto on the terms of this agreement. I am confident, however, that as the London County Council and Festival Gardens, Limited, have a joint interest in the success of the Gardens there will be no difficulty over the terms of the agreement, and I can assure you that the Government will, if necessary, use their good offices as a shareholder of the Company to ensure that reasonable safeguards for the London County Council are forthcoming without unreasonable delay.
The second point is the suggestion that the Gardens might close at some time other than at the end of November, 1953 or 1956, for which statutory provision is to be made. Any statutory provision for an order to close the Gardens at other times would have introduced a further element of uncertainty which would have been unfair to the management and would have prevented satisfactory financial planning and contractual relationships. The Festival Pleasure Gardens Bill in its present form, however, makes it clear that there is nothing to compel the Festival Pleasure Gardens to remain open. Accordingly, if some unexpected development made it essential to close the Gardens quickly it would be possible for the Company—or the Government and the London County Council as shareholders—to decide to do this. In such a case the provisions in the Bill for the reinstatement of Battersea Park would not operate, but I think we should agree now that if the Gardens should close permanently at some time other than at the end of November, 1953, or 1956, we should use our position as shareholders to ensure that the reinstatement of Battersea Park is carried out by the Company as soon as practicable and in a satisfactory manner.
There is a large and justified public interest in the policy under which the Festival Pleasure Gardens will operate in future, and in the other points covered by this letter, so 126W if you agree, I would like to publish this correspondence, which supplements, and does not supersede, the various other agreements already reached in connection with Festival Gardens.
(Signed) DAVID ECCLES.
DEAR MR. ECCLES,
Thank you very much for your letter of 25th January in which you suggest that certain important points which affect the future operation of the Festival Pleasure Gardens and which are not covered by any formal agreement should be agreed in writing between us.
I fully share your views on the need for recovering the money owing both to the Government and to the Council and for providing the amenities desired by the public, and I have every hope that the high standards set by the Gardens in 1951 will be equalled and perhaps surpassed during the period of their continuance.
I am grateful for your assurance that the Council may rely on the Government's support should any difficulties arise over the terms of the occupation agreement with Festival Gardens, Limited, or over the eventual reinstatement of Battersea Park. On the latter point I am assuming that the phase "as soon as practicable" means "as expeditiously as possible."
I have no objection to this correspondence being included in the reply to a Parliamentary Question.
(Signed) I. J. HAYWARD,
Leader of the London